Image: Martha Jungwirth | review
Installation view of Martha Jungwirth: All Will Fall at Thaddaeus Ropac, London, 31 May-30 July 2022. © Martha Jungwirth / Bildrecht, Wien 2022. Photo: Eva Herzog.
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Martha Jungwirth | review

10 June 2022
Ely House, London

By Eddy Frankel

Martha Jungwirth’s art pushes the idea of gestural abstraction so far that you can’t imagine what else can be done with it. It feels like an endpoint, a final chapter, a full stop. 

The 82-year-old Austrian artist’s new paintings here are rough, complicated things. In some the marks are rushed and forceful, in others smooth and considered. They look like what would happen if you asked a five year old to paint fireworks.

The best are the ones with the most negative space: a few streaks of red and mauve here, a burst of yellow, green and purple there. 

Some forms emerge out of the abstraction: figures moving, bodies writhing. Upstairs, long thin paintings look like images of crucifixion, or witches on pyres. They’re all nods to Jungwirth’s love of dance and Goya’s paintings of witchcraft. They’re gorgeous, but it’s at their most seemingly meaningless that her paintings work best. That’s when they feel like little explosions of pure expression.

This is the kind of modern painting that people love to hate, all those graduates of the ‘I could do that’ school. But they’re wrong, because Jungwirth’s eye for colour and composition, form and technique, are abstraction at its best, and if everyone could do it…well, the world would be filled with a lot more beautiful art.

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